Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Reid, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, James Norton, Matthew Goode, Alex Jennings, Penelope Wilton.
Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) brings his illegitimate, mixed race daughter Dido (Lauren Julien-Box) to England and entrusts the child to his aristocratic uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).
He permits Dido to stay, allowing his great-niece to become a constant companion to her cousin, Elizabeth (Cara Jenkins). The girls blossom and Lady Elizabeth (now played by Sarah Gadon) prepares to seek a wealthy husband.
Dido (now played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is afforded certain privileges by her lineage but she must remain behind closed doors at important social gatherings. Oliver Ashford (James Norton), the handsome offspring of Lord and Lady Ashford (Alex Jennings, Miranda Richardson), is enamoured with Dido.
However, her head is turned by idealistic lawyer John Davinier (Sam Reid), who is heavily involved in the high-profile case of a ship called the Zong, which threw dozens of slaves overboard to their death because the crew claimed they did not have enough provisions.
Belle is the enchanting dramatisation of a true story of fortitude across racial and class divides at a time when pompous men of privilege were vociferously debating the end of slavery in England.
Amma Asante’s handsome period piece illuminates the debate and some of the characters, whose lives intersected at this historical crossroads. The ensemble cast delivers excellent performances, particularly Mbatha-Raw, who possesses beauty and vulnerability on camera.
She catalyses smouldering screen chemistry with Reid, and Wilkinson brings pomp and circumstance to his pivotal role as a man with the power to chip away at the foundations of the legal firmament.